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Regional homelessness group endorses Downtown shelter site

October 8, 2009 - 4:01 pm

Rosemary Johnston, legislative chair of the Regional Continuum of Care Council, a network of San Diego County homelessness services providers, just sent along a copy of a letter that’s going to all San Diego City Council members, recommending that Downtown be the site for this year’s winter shelter.

Johnston writes:

It is clear from the Point in Time Count conducted by the Regional Task Force on the Homeless on January 30, 2009 that twice as many street  individuals were counted in District Two, Councilmember Kevin Faulconer’s district, than in any other council district. More than half of the street homeless in the city are in District Two. Here is the street homeless count by council district:

* District 1 (48)
* District 2 (1,098)
* District 3 (455)
* District 4 (3)
* District 5 (66)
* District 6 (111)
* District 7 (11)
* District 8 (115)

Because the street population is not distributed evenly throughout the city, it is not logical, efficient, or effective to place shelters or services in districts with a very low homeless population. The issue of access to services is very important and compounded by the lack of convenient access to public transportation throughout the city. There would be substantial additional costs required to transport homeless individuals to and from a shelter site outside of downtown.

One argument against putting the shelter Downtown is that it’s a self-contained unit—that Alpha Project, the shelter’s operator, brings in services ranging from shower facilities to medical and mental health screenings courtesy of county staff. Johnston, though, points out that there are necessary services Downtown that the shelter doesn’t provide:

Among the services tent participants access in the downtown area are lunch at St. Vincent de Paul Village, services such as a mailing address and birth certificate assistance offered at Neil Good Day Center, services provided at Senior Community Centers (please note that a growing proportion of winter shelter participants are 60 or older and increasingly frail), AA and NA meetings, county services such as food stamps and general relief, Social Security programs such as SSI and SSDI, case management at nearby agencies, and assistance for those with physical disabilities. These agencies are not able to send staff somewhere else in the city if the shelter participants cannot come to them, and the shelter participants will not have convenient access if the shelter is placed outside of the downtown area. With local, state, and federal funding cutbacks, it is likely that some of these services could be less available even for walk-in traffic at their sites.

Another point she brings up is one I hear often: the concentration of homeless folks and services in East Village is an unmitigated impact of Petco Park:

It should be noted that the homeless populations and the programs that serve them were located in the downtown area prior to the redevelopment of the downtown area and the subsequent increase in the downtown residential population.  No mitigating allowances were made for this population when Petco Park was built nor when the Downtown Community Plan Update was approved.

Perhaps this is where Downtown residents should focus their frustrations, no? Discuss.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Fish permalink
    October 13, 2009 - 7:57 pm 7:57 pm

    Well, I guess Ms. Davis has heard by now: The City has decided to go with the same site as last year for their winter shelter.

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